The Traditional Call Centre is Dead; Online Customer Service is King

A potential 1.4bn in lost sales as 37% of online retail consumers say they would stop using a company following poor customer service*

94% of British people using online retail websites say customer service is important or very important when conducting transactions
66% of people say being stuck in a call centre phone queue is one of the biggest frustrations about customer service
96% would stop using a company immediately, or proactively look for an alternative, if they received poor customer service
Contacting a company by email is the preferred method of communication

Call centre phone queues, not being able to find information on a companys website and waiting for email replies are the biggest customer service frustrations amongst British consumers using retail websites, according to an online survey of over 2,000 people, commissioned by nGenera CIM.  In fact, UK businesses that transact online face up to 1.4bn in lost sales due to poor customer service, and 96% of customers on online retail websites say they would proactively look for a competitor or stop using a companys website altogether.  This is not surprising given that 94% say customer service is either important or very important when using the web.

The research report, released today and available to download at, highlights the importance that web users on retail sites place on help being provided online.  Waiting in a call centre queue was considered the biggest frustration, with 66% of these respondents finding this annoying. The report also uncovers the preferred methods of seeking assistance when on a website, with email topping the list (37%), followed by using the online Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section (23%). Less than one in five (18%) people opt to call the customer services team.   

Not surprisingly, there were some startling differences of opinion between the 18-24 and 45+ age groups.  As many as 61% of older web users would turn to email or phone for help, compared to just 44% of 18-24 year olds. The younger age range were more inclined to contact a company through online chat with just over a fifth saying this was their preferred method, and 22% trying the websites FAQs. Older website visitors prefer more traditional contact methods, with only 10% of the over 55s turning to chat and 46% choosing to send a company an email, compared to 30% of 18-24 year olds. 

Matthew Haines, European Managing Director of nGenera CIM, comments:  It is clear from the research that the customer service landscape is changing. Online channels such as email, web self-service and live chats are quickly overtaking phone as the preferred contact method for UK consumers.  This provides an opportunity for companies to deliver fast and effective online customer service, which can be a key differentiator and deliver huge benefits. By establishing these channels, businesses can reduce strain on the call centre, increase agent productivity, reduce costs and ensure consistency and accuracy of messages.

The younger, internet-savvy generation are very comfortable using new technologies such as live chat and demand rapid, accurate customer service.  They are leading a new evolution of customer service, driving communication online, and providing companies with the opportunity to streamline their call centre operations and effectively meet the high levels of service their customers are demanding.

A full report detailing the survey results, market trends and best practice advice, is available to download from today at .

*Working was calculated using the IMRG latest estimate retail spend in 2008 - 43.8bn (


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